Travel in 2020 has been a bit like the video conferences that now occupy our days: there are moments where the connection is perfect, and you make strides on a clear path forward—maybe you even book your plane ticket. But then someone’s internet connection drops. Or the screen freezes. Or a country closes its borders and enforces a quarantine.
Much like our digital world, it’s been a glitchy year for travel.
Needless to say, we weren’t able to run many trips. But with those intrepid travellers who did hit the road, we learned invaluable lessons that will shape the way we plan in the future.
The measures we took to make sure our travellers were safe while still having fun brought us to a whole new level of meticulous attention to detail (who knew it was even possible?). We heightened our ability to make tweaks on the fly in an ever-changing situation and honed in on some innovations and new trends.
What’s clear to us is that how we travel has fundamentally changed. We’ve had to hit a reset button, but we’re confident we will emerge from this more focused and committed to what we do, how we do it and with whom we work to deliver extraordinary experiences around the world.
Below are stories from our Experience Designers that share how 2020 has elevated their trip planning and their takeaways for future travel.
The Seclusion and Freedom of Boat Charters
Experience Designer: Tom Abraham
As our travel expert for coastal countries like Croatia, Greece and Turkey, Tom has long been showing his travellers these areas by sea, opting for small ships and yachts to serve as your floating accommodation. While he’s always felt that cruising along shorelines is in an incredible way to experience a destination, these boat-based trips are starting to make more sense than ever.
Gathering your group off-land gives you freedom and peace of mind. You don’t need to worry about moving around between hotels while still getting the opportunity to see all a place has to offer.
Basing your trip on a small ship also offers you more control in a time where that feels increasingly challenging. One traveller who went on a boat journey with us this year mentioned that he enjoyed having control over meals and the dining experiences onboard, rather than having to be concerned with dining out in public. Another benefit is being able to do a variety of different events: you can hop off in a port town if you want to check out the sites on land or veer to a secluded bay for a crowd-free beach day.
As for his trip planning, Tom recognizes the importance of having good cancellation terms and the prospect of a no-hassle refund or, at the very least, the flexibility to change. (This lesson came from a last-minute yacht trip switch due to a sudden border closure, where Tom was able to save the traveller from any financial penalties and rebook them elsewhere.)
Coming up, Tom has a few boat trips on deck for 2021, including a private group of nearly 20 people taking to the coast of Croatia.
In Search of Open Spaces (and Open Borders)
Experience Designer: Orsolya Kako
Iceland was one of the first places to reopen their borders to international travellers, and our Experience Designer Orsolya Kako was eager to do research for new trips. Even though Orsolya had everything prepared to go—proper documentation, plane tickets, booked accommodations and, most importantly, a clean bill of health—she quickly realized the situation is not as simple as somewhere being open for business.
Despite perfect planning, the trip fell through due to a flight that kept getting bumped back to the point that it no longer fit into other plans. But not all was lost, as Orsolya learned first-hand the bumps in the road that may occur in this uncertain climate.
The good news is the situation confirmed just how solid our on-the-ground Iceland team is. They were always in touch and quickly adapted to whatever adjustments were needed, proving that when it comes to welcoming you back into their country, they’ll be ready whenever you are.
Until then, Iceland continues to manage the situation in stride. And with travellers yearning for more natural landscapes and wide-open spaces that make social distancing easy, the Land of Fire and Ice looks promising for travel in 2021.
There are some new properties set to open that Orsolya is confident will work well for staying safe. One is the 360 hotel, a small property with a limited number of rooms (and therefore fewer guests) and the Torfhus Retreat, which features self-contained turf cottages and private outdoor geothermal hot tubs. She’s also looking at curating bespoke trips in even more remote regions like Eastern Iceland—a place few people go—that offers stunning hiking routes and mountain biking.
Perhaps Orsolya’s biggest takeaway was being reminded of the emotions involved with travel planning, the incredible rush you get from booking your next trip and having something to look forward to—a feeling we’ve all missed and are longing to get back!
Finding a Home Away from Home
Experience Designer: Courtney Mundy
Experience Designer Courtney Mundy resides in Italy, one of the most hard-hit countries of COVID-19 in Europe. But thanks to the country’s strict security measures and a months-long lockdown, it was able to gradually open back up (you can check out this video of Courtney re-discovering Florence with her family to see what it’s been like).
Courtney continued to spend her summer exploring her adopted home safely and comfortably with her family, venturing to parts of Italy she hadn’t yet discovered. She went rafting with her son in the Garfagnana—a wildly adventurous, lesser-visited part of Tuscany—and spent close to a month in Sardinia, where they enjoyed the tourist-free turquoise beaches.
As someone who highly values being with family, Courtney knows it’s one of the top things everyone is longing for. And when it comes to your next adventure, you’ll want to make up for any lost time with those you hold dear. Italy is ideal for a multi-generational family getaway and Courtney has put together a roster of incredible villas that you can use as a base while you fill your days with events suited for both the young and young-at-heart.
She already has a handful of these villa-style trips on the books for next year, including a few at the incredible Podere Panico, as well as at other properties in Tuscany and Amalfi. Activities she’s curated around these stays include biking, hiking, private boating excursions, a private gardening experience at Francesco Illy’s award-winning Podere Le Ripi winery, blending sessions, a visit to a pecorino cheese farm, cooking classes and more.
What Courtney has learned from working with villas is to act fast. Most 2020 events and reservations were postponed to 2021, and villa availability is already limited for next year. For more ideas of where you can book a home away from home with your family and friends, take a look at our Singular Stays program for opportunities to both seclude and immerse yourself in exceptional settings.